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TNGOP Slams Dems Voting Against Income Tax Ban

Press Release from the Republican Party of Tennessee, Jan. 19, 2012:

Once Again, Tennessee Democrats Stand Up For A State Income Tax

NASHVILLE, TN – Today, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted in favor of a resolution to amend the Tennessee Constitution by adding language to ban a state income tax. SJR 221, sponsored by Representative Glen Casada, passed the Republican-controlled House by a vote of 73-17-3.

The amendment will now have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate in the next session. The amendment will then be placed on the ballot, coinciding with a gubernatorial election, to allow Tennessee voters to approve.  “I applaud our Republican leadership for moving us one step closer to solidifying the unconstitutionality of a state income tax. However, several Tennessee Democrats once again showed their liberal mindset by reinforcing their belief that government should not be restricted from  dipping into your paycheck,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.

“While Tennesseans work hard to get through this economic recession, Tennessee Democrats are content with duplicating President Obama’s philosophy of raising taxes to meet reckless government spending, instead of reducing government to meet current revenue,” said Devaney.

Democrats Who Voted Against Banning a State Income Tax: Karen Camper, Barbara Cooper, Charles Curtiss, Lois Deberry, G.A. Hardaway, Bill Harmon, Mike Kernell, Larry Miller, Gary Moore, Jimmy Naifeh, Joe Pitts, Jeanne Richardson, Johnny Shaw, Mike Stewart, Harry Tindell, Joe Towns, and Johnnie Turner.

AG Opines On Former Clarksville Mayor’s Hiring as CDE Lightband Superintendent

Press Release from Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams; March 25, 2011:

AG ISSUES SUPPLEMENTAL OPINION ON PIPER HIRING

NASHVILLE – State Senator Tim Barnes and fellow members of the Montgomery

County Delegation received a supplemental opinion from Attorney General Robert Cooper on Friday regarding former Clarksville mayor Johnny Piper’s hiring as superintendent of CDE Lightband.

The opinion states that the power board may not be legally composed if it was formed under a 1935 state law creating municipal power boards, but it also states that the AG’s office does not have sufficient information to determine if that is the case.

At the time of Piper’s hiring, the CDE Lightband board was composed of seven members – all Piper appointees – who were to serve three-year terms, as laid out in the Clarksville charter. The state law provides for a different composition than the requirements in the Clarksville charter.

The opinion also addressed a request regarding how to bring the board into compliance, should it be found to be improperly composed. The opinion states that neither the 1935 state law nor the charter provides such a remedy.

Cooper earlier opined that the 1935 state law supersedes a Clarksville city law prohibiting elected officials from interviewing for a local department head position for one year after leaving office. Piper accepted the $140,000 superintendent job days before his mayoral term expired on Dec. 31, 2010.

Barnes, State Representatives Curtis Johnson, Joe Pitts, and Phillip Johnson

requested the supplemental AG opinion on behalf of current Clarksville mayor Kim McMillan.


Guv’s Charter School Bill Met With Initial Skepticism

Legislation that would blow the cap off the number of charter schools and pave the way for a handful of the governor’s education reforms to alternative education was aired at a hearing for the first time Wednesday.

The plan, HB1989, drew resistance from members on both sides of the aisle in the House Education Subcommittee, foreshadowing possible resistance as the bill moves through committees.

“The whole point of this legislation is just to create more flexibility and make this an option in more places,” Will Cromer, director of policy and research for Gov. Bill Haslam, told members of the subcommittee Wednesday.

Charter school reform is one of three prongs to what Haslam administration officials have referred to as the governor’s “small legislative package,” which also makes it more difficult for teachers to earn and keep tenure and installs caps on non-damage jury awards through tort reform. All of those issues, Haslam says, will help spur job growth.

Most members of the committee appeared sympathetic to Haslam’s three-aspect plan to open charter school enrollment to all students, allow charters to pitch new schools to a state-run school district instead of local school boards, and lift the 90-school limit on the number of charters statewide.

But Rep. Joe Pitts, a Democrat from Clarksville, worried that the measure would give the state’s achievement school district a back-door method of turning the state’s failing schools into charter schools, which he opposes. Rep. Ron Lollar, R-Bartlett, questioned the wisdom of taking public dollars away from traditional public schools to fund schools operated by private organizations, a concern often raised by teacher-union members critical of charter schools.

Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh suggested that the expansion would remove too much local control.

The committee plans to take up the bill, along with up to a dozen others pertaining to charter schools, again for debate and a vote next week. The Senate has not yet taken up the legislation.

Montgomery Co. Lawmakers Ask AG for Opinion on Johnny Piper Hire

Press Release from Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams, Jan 13, 2011:

Former Clarksville mayor takes $140,000 job as utility superintendent

NASHVILLE – State lawmakers representing Montgomery County have requested an opinion from Attorney General Bob Cooper concerning former Clarksville mayor Johnny Piper’s hiring as superintendent of CDE Lightband, a $140,000 job that he accepted while still mayor of the city.

“Clearly there are questions here that need answers: legal questions, governing questions, and most important, ethical questions,” State Senator Tim Barnes said. “When an elected official agrees to take a six-figure government job while still in office, there should be all kinds of questions.”

Barnes, State Representatives Joe Pitts, Curtis Johnson and Phillip Johnson issued the request Thursday on behalf of current Clarksville mayor Kim McMillan. The request asks the AG whether the city can impose the same ethics regulations on CDE that it imposes on other city departments.

“We have a responsibility to seek some clarity of these recent events in response to the hundreds of citizens who have contacted us expressing outrage regarding this matter,” Pitts said.

Piper accepted the $140,000 superintendent job days before his mayoral term expired on Dec. 31, 2010. Clarksville ethics laws state that elected officials cannot interview for a department head in local government for one year after leaving office, and cannot interview for any government position for three months after their term expires.

CDE lawyers have argued that the city laws do not apply to the utility because it was created under a 1935 state law that does not contain the same regulations. Barnes and other lawmakers point out that the state law allows for local governments to create additional ethical safeguards like the ones in the Clarksville city code. Without them, mayors could appoint people who could later turn around and hire them as soon as their term expired.

“Our ethics regulations were created for scenarios like the one we’re facing now,” said Curtis Johnson, appointed Thursday as the House Ethics Committee Chairman. “The minute we create exceptions, we open the floodgates for abuse.”